ROME -- The latest weapon in the U.N.'s fight against hunger, global warming and pollution might be flying by you right now.
Edible insects are being promoted as a low-fat, high-protein food for people, pets and livestock. According to the UN, they come with appetizing side benefits: reducing greenhouse gas emissions and livestock pollution, creating jobs in developing countries and feeding the millions of hungry people in the world.
Some edible insect information in bite-sized form:
Who eats insects now? Two billion people do, largely in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization said yesterday as it issued a report on edible insect potential.
Some insects may already be in your food. Demand for natural food coloring over artificial dyes is increasing, the agency's experts say. A red coloring produced from the cochineal, a scaled insect often exported from Peru, already puts the hue in a trendy Italian aperitif and an internationally popular brand of strawberry yogurt.
Packed with protein, full of fiber Scientists who studied the nutritional value of edible insects found that red ants, small grasshoppers and some water beetles pack enough protein to rank with lean ground beef while having less fat per gram. Edible insects contain fiber and useful minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium and zinc.
Which to choose? Beetles and caterpillars are the most common meals among the more than 1,900 edible insect species. Other popular insects are bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, locusts and crickets.
Eco-friendly Insects on average can convert 4.4 pounds of feed into 2.2 pounds of edible meat. In comparison, cattle require 17.6 pounds of feed to produce 2.2 pounds of meat. Most insects raised for food are likely to produce fewer harmful greenhouse gases than livestock, the UN agency says.